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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Route 66 Ghost Roads Convergence

Route 66 Ghost Roads Convergence
A spring house on the Route 66 Ghost Road trail
Historic Route 66 embodies a uniquely American sort of inertia: constantly changing, evolving and adapting to innovations while respecting its roots.
The Mother Road that ran for 2,448 miles between Chicago and Los Angeles is no longer the arterial travel corridor is was from the 1920s to the 1960s, but its legacy has been curated in stretches of drive-able pavement and backwoods “ghost roads” accessible only by way of bike or foot travel.
In Northern Arizona, the iconic road was re-routed several times before being replaced by Interstate 40. Today, bits and pieces of the decommissioned road have been repurposed into scenic driving tours, bike trails and walking paths that preserve its heritage and crumbing imprints on the landscape.  One interesting location to explore on foot is where remnants of the road’s 1921, 1931 and 1941 alignments converge north of Interstate 40 in the tiny community of Parks.
Three alignments of Route 66 meet at this point on the trail.
Hiding in plain sight along a motorized stretch of Old Route 66 about halfway between Flagstaff and Williams, in Kaibab National Forest, a dusty pullout and information kiosk mark the beginning of an easy stroll at the juncture of three ghost roads.
Plants take root in the abandoned 1931 alignment of Rt. 66
Located not far from the Pines General Store Deli & CafĂ© and postal annex that’s been around since 1906, the who-knew trailhead surrounded by a fading log-pole fence directs hikers onto a mile-long segment of the 1931 alignment--the northernmost vestige on the hike. 
Trailhead sign shows the evolution of Route 66 near Parks.
A few yards to the south, the 1921 alignment is a barely-there dirt two-track that’s slowing being reclaimed by the forest. South of the vanishing dirt passage, cars whiz by on paved Old Route 66 (1941- 1964) while the hum of vehicles on Interstate 40 betray the location of the freeway that diluted Route 66’s status as a major thoroughfare and gateway to the Southwest down to a recreational curiosity.
The ghostly footprint of the 1921 alignment of Route 66
The 1931 road-turned-hiking-trail makes a straight shot through pine-oak forests and weedy meadows.  
Calliopsis grown in drainages along the trail.
At the start of the hike, part of the road appears to have been bulldozed away.
A decommissioned segment of Rt. 66 is now a hiking trail.
Piles of broken concrete along the north edge of the route soon give way to patches of intact pavement in varying degrees of decay. Underfoot, the remains of the road include a montage of blacktop, concrete and a pinkish pebble conglomerate that hint at the challenges of Depression-era road maintenance.

A Depression-era culvert spans a drainage on the trail.
The route passes through pine-oak woodlands in Kaibab NF.
About a quarter-mile in, a culvert bearing the clean lines and subdued edges typical of 1930s design spans a drainage area replete with wildflowers.
Gate at trail's end.
Beyond that, near where a wall of basalt bolsters the road’s edge, there’s a stone spring house that had been used as part of a defunct forest service camp. 
The trailhead is in a pullout on the 1941 alignment of Rt.66
A few steps past the spring house, the trail passes a wooden gate where a pair of culverts--one from 1931 and the other from 1941—mark the merger point of the three ghost roads that are the fading predecessors of the modern-day interstate highway system.
An old forest service camp spring house along the trail.
Yellow sweet clover grows along the edge of the trail.
The 1931 alignment is composed of various materials
LENGTH: 2 miles out-and-back
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 7,015 - 7,171 feet
From Interstate 40 about 13 miles west of Flagstaff, take the Parks exit 178 and go 0.4-mile north to Old Route 66. Turn right and continue 0.4-mile to the trailhead on the left.
INFO: Kaibab National Forest
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